Move prompts Maxwell’s attorney to seek to postpone her sentencing because she can’t properly prepare for the hearing
Guards at the federal prison where Ghislaine Maxwell awaits her sentencing for her role in an elaborate child sexual abuse case have placed her on suicide watch, though she isn’t suicidal, according to court records.
The move prompted the British socialite’s attorney to write a letter telling the judge in the case that Maxwell would seek to postpone her sentencing Tuesday because she can’t properly prepare for the hearing. Prison officials on Friday took away Maxwell’s legal papers – along with her regular clothes, toothpaste and soap – while putting her in solitary confinement and on suicide watch, said the letter from her attorney Bobby Sternheim.
“If Ms Maxwell remains on suicide watch, is prohibited from reviewing legal matters prior to sentencing, becomes sleep-deprived and is denied sufficient time to meet with and confer with counsel, we will be formally moving on Monday for an adjournment,” Sternheim’s letter to Judge Alison Nathan said Saturday.
Sternheim’s letter added that a psychologist evaluated Maxwell, 61, and concluded she is not suicidal. But her sentencing comes nearly three years after her co-defendant, financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, killed himself in jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial in the sex trafficking case that also ensnared Maxwell.
In a reply to Sternheim’s letter later Sunday, federal prosecutors said Maxwell had been put on suicide watch in part because she had reported to the jail’s administration that the facility’s staff were potentially “threatening her safety”. The lockup’s staff put her on suicide watch to remove her from the facility’s regular population while it investigated Maxwell’s claims – and also because convicted sex offenders are generally at a higher risk of self-harm, prosecutors said in their letter.
Maxwell was convicted on 29 December of sex trafficking and related charges filed against her in Manhattan federal court after she recruited girls – some as young as 14 – for Epstein to abuse. Nathan could sentence Maxwell to up to 55 years in prison.
Her lawyers on Friday asked Nathan to bar four accusers from providing victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, arguing that they were adults when they encountered Maxwell and therefore did not have the right to speak at the proceeding.
Nathan hasn’t ruled on that request. Maxwell has maintained her innocence despite her conviction.
Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255 and online chat is also available. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis text line counselor. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org